Philippians 1:21. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Nobody loves talking about death, much less talking about it in such glowing terms. Why? Because most of us have a deep seated fear of death. The fear of what will happen to the loved ones we leave behind. The fear of leaving things unaccomplished. The fear of unresolved regrets. The fear of not leaving behind some kind of legacy. The fear of our life having been meaningless.
Can you relate? Do you have a fear of death? Do you see your death as great loss, or great gain?
Paul talks about dying without fear or regret. He speaks of his own death even as a good thing, the best of things. But how? How does Paul call death, the end of it all, the loss of all things, gain? Why does he seem like he’s almost happy about the prospect of dying soon?
Philippians 1:23. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
Because to die is to be with Christ.
And to be with Christ is the greatest of all glories. The greatest of all joys. The greatest of all living.
Death is only loss when you haven’t already lost it all before you die. And that’s what Paul had already done – lost it all. All his status. All his honor. All his credentials. All his earthly gain. He held it all with an open hand. Here’s how he describes it later in the letter:
Philippians 3:4-10. 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Paul gladly traded in earthly gain for spiritual gain – the joy of knowing Christ. A joy that he knew, would one day be fully realized in dying. Dying while living by sharing his sufferings, and then dying in the flesh so as to attain the resurrection of the dead. All to be like him.
Jesus also saw the gain in dying. What did Christ gain in his death? What was the one thing God didn’t have yet? You. Me. Us. His joy and prize. His beloved bride. His prodigal brothers and sisters. His beloved.
Our death is gain because to die is to be with Christ. The great lover of our soul. The healer of our hearts. The king of our glory. To die is to have more of Christ than we’ve ever had. To die is to be free from all sin, and all deception, and all fear. And to die is to wake up next to our brother Jesus in the embrace of our good, good, Father where pleasure abounds forevermore.
When we can truly embrace the glory of dying, and fully trust that in the presence of Christ Jesus is the center of all that our hearts have always wanted – all love, joy, and peace. When we see that to be with Christ is to be more alive than ever before. No worries. No regrets. No FOMO. Nothing left unaccomplished, for Jesus has done it all. His life, love, and legacy now ours to share. When we can imagine ourselves in the shared embrace of the Trinity, dancing in the perfect rhythm of the glorious grace of the godhead. If and when we believe all of this more and more with all of our hearts, then we will be ready to live. We will be ready to embrace “to live is Christ.”
Are you afraid to die? Why or why not?
You in Christ
Do you believe that to die is gain? Do you look forward to being with Jesus?
Christ in you
How does embracing the glory of death help us to live more fully each day?
Playlist: To die is gain.